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Mapping multiple features in the population response of visual cortex


Stimulus features such as edge orientation, motion direction and spatial frequency are thought to be encoded in the primary visual cortex by overlapping feature maps arranged so that the location of neurons activated by a particular combination of stimulus features can be predicted from the intersections of these maps1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. This view is based on the use of grating stimuli, which limit the range of stimulus combinations that can be examined. We used optical imaging of intrinsic signals9 in ferrets to assess patterns of population activity evoked by the motion of a texture (a field of iso-oriented bars). Here we show that the same neural population can be activated by multiple combinations of orientation, length, motion axis and speed. Rather than reflecting the intersection of multiple maps, our results indicate that population activity in primary visual cortex is better described as a single map of spatiotemporal energy.

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Figure 1: Systematic shifts in the population response induced by changes in axis of motion.
Figure 2: Systematic shifts in the population response induced by changes in bar length.
Figure 3: Shifts in the population response induced by changes in stimulus speed.
Figure 4: Tuning shifts seen with imaging occur at the single unit level.


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We thank D. Purves, J. A. Movshon, S. Nundy, J. C. Crowley and members of the Fitzpatrick laboratory for helpful discussions. This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to D.F.

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Correspondence to David Fitzpatrick.

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Basole, A., White, L. & Fitzpatrick, D. Mapping multiple features in the population response of visual cortex. Nature 423, 986–990 (2003).

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